Review of Everyday painting by Barry Schwabsky

It was interesting reading this introduction forVitamin P2(2011) written by Barry Schwabsky that even he could not define art, never mind painting. This introduction piece raises several key points about painting and art for that matter:

  • Painting did not start out as an art form, but It was a way to kindle faith or provide propaganda for the rulers of the country (pg 10). A way to educate and control the masses, to  ensure they followed the rules of the rulers. No thoughts about aesthetics or context beyond what your master told you to paint.
  • Painting became an art form in the 18th century (pg 10)
  • Contemporary painters are interested in what their work shares with other cultural and subcultural pursuits (pg 12)
  • It would be detrimental to painting and all other art forms to put on blinkers by putting up criteria for judgement - this would limit ones view point, eliminating many approaches. Painting and interpreting these needs a pluralist approach to enable a much deeper understanding of the work.
  • Painting is influenced by many sources - many paintings are made up of layers, many of these layers we can only interpret and judge partially, because of differing traditions and backgrounds are the sources of inspiration. This is a view that arches across all contemporary art forms of today.
  • Many established conceptual artist go back to painting as a medium of expression - appearing to satisfy artistic needs that objects, text or photography does not.
  • In the last 100 years anything can be viewed as art - everything goes, nothing is excluded from the realm of contemporary art scene today (pg 15). This started with the Fountain (1917) by Marcel Duchamp. Duchamp challenged conventional thinking within the art world especially with this work.
  • A painter can either just make art or contribute to the next step in art historical discussions or aim to do both (pg 15) - these artist who aim to make a difference in the art history of tomorrow are not necessarily just painters. They come from many different disciplines within the art world.
  • The ordinariness and simplicity of painting in today’s world is one of it’s most important characteristics (pg 15) - now with the wide influences of the digital world and where many of the other art forms have become more a form of entertainment, a distraction and a spectacle used to draw crowds (pg 16).

Thinking about some of the key points of this reading created some links to my own thinking and more recently an experience of being judged not-acceptable for a competition. This experience and after reading this introduction piece made me think how limiting, but often vitally important, it is to put in ground rules for judging art. As rules can create artificial boundaries and boxes art work, but few art works can be judged equally, unless they have all been produced through the same process and have the same context. Even then there is individual interpretation which will alter the look of the final work. I also really linked with the notion that painting is ordinary and closely linked to everyday lives. It has an honesty about it that many current art forms do not have, because it is directly applied by the human hand. My own practice has a strong historical approach in the processes I use. Darkroom photography and simple print processes are the basis for my practice. I am finding the simplicity and the direct physical involvement of these processes the greatest appeal, where chance or mistakes play a large part in my work, very much like painting as described by Schwabsky. Sure painting is influenced by all that is around us, but no art form is a solitary pursuit any more. All are influenced by our everyday lives and the fact that ‘art’ is now a stand alone pursuit, it is not controlled by a small group of society anymore, but judged by concept of aesthetic concepts. If you consider that ‘art is something that creates an emotional reaction’, then any reaction makes it acceptable for anything to be considered art. We live in a world where individuality is not considered a privilege, but the norm. This norm expects differences of opinion and tastes to be acceptable, creating a platform for anything to be viewed as art.

Posted by Elle Anderson

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